Intrauterine Device (IUD)
The intrauterine device, most commonly referred to as an IUD, is a form of birth control. Shaped like a small “T,” it’s placed in your uterus by your doctor or healthcare provider. Your cervix then holds it tightly in place. IUD effectiveness is unchallenged; the IUD failure rate is less than 1 percent. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, IUDs are more effective at birth control than the pill, the vaginal ring, the patch and prophylactics.
Despite their effectiveness and safety, fewer than five percent of women under 30 use them. Part of the reason is misinformation about the IUD insertion process. All the concerns are addressed below, but if you’re looking for a birth control method that you can rely on and forget about, consider getting an IUD.
ParaGard vs Mirena
Two types of IUDs exist, and there are three main brands to choose from. Talk to your doctor about which might be best for you:
- Nonhormonal IUDs (ParaGard) are wrapped with copper
- Hormonal IUDs (Mirena and Skyla) use the hormone progestin
The non-hormonal IUDs emit copper ions that kill or confuse sperm cells. They are hormone-free and can last 10 to 12 years. Since they are chemical-free, they disrupt your normal menstrual cycle less than other forms of birth control. You can even insert one up to five days after unprotected sex as an emergency contraceptive.
The hormonal IUDs can last from three to five years, depending on the brand you use. Skyla is smaller than Mirena, but otherwise they’re the same. Every day, the device releases a small amount of progestin, creating a plug of mucus at your cervix that prevents sperm from passing.
Facts About IUD Insertion
You can get an intrauterine device only from a doctor, and only a doctor can insert it properly. Inserting it takes less than a minute in your doctor’s office. The IUD insertion process has been compared to getting a pap smear with some accompanying cramping. Some women experience lightheadedness or nausea, but it’s rare. The procedure can be temporarily uncomfortable, but most women who get an IUD say the discomfort is worth it for years of painless birth control.
The best way to prepare is to educate yourself. Your doctor uses a speculum to see into your vagina. After cleaning your vagina and cervix, your healthcare provider may measure how deep your uterus is to ensure that the IUD will fit. Then the device is inserted into your uterus using an applicator tube. Once the tube is removed and the strings of the IUD are cut, you’re finished.
IUD Side Effects
While your doctor has to insert the device, it’s virtually maintenance free. IUD complications are rare, and the side effects from an IUD are minimal. Most subside after several months. Issues can include:
- With a ParaGard IUD, your periods might get a little worse for a few months before subsiding.
- With a Mirena or Skyla IUD, you may notice spotting for up to six months, but then your period should lighten, meaning it becomes a light flow for a couple days.
- For a few months, you may experience breast tenderness, mood shifts, or increased acne, but all these symptoms fade over time.
- You may get an IUD infection in your pelvic area within three weeks of inserting the device, but it’s not at all common.
- Regardless which IUD you choose, there is a three percent chance that it will dislodge and come out of your uterus. This won’t affect your health, but it leaves you unprotected until you have it re-inserted.
IUD Pros and Cons
Like all contraception methods, IUDs provide benefits but there are some risks. Consider:
- IUDs represent a completely reversible form of birth control.
- They start working as soon as they’re inserted.
- Compare IUD vs pill, and IUD is often the better choice. You have to remember to take the pill every day while the IUD is maintenance-free. And IUDs are more effective.
- IUDs also reduce the likelihood that an embryo can attach to your uterine wall, further lessening the chance of pregnancy.
- You can use the copper IUD as an emergency method to prevent pregnancy if inserted within five days of your unprotected sex.
- Hormonal IUDs ease menstrual cramps and make your periods lighter.
- With copper IUDs, your period might disappear altogether.
- You must visit a doctor or a family planning clinic to get an IUD. Only a doctor can insert one.
- IUDs do nothing to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and infections.
- The insertion procedure can be uncomfortable for some women.
- You have to be comfortable with the idea of inserting a device into your uterus.
- The hormonal IUDs release chemicals into your blood stream. As a result, you may experience unusual cramping or IUD bleeding, at least temporarily.
- The device can fall out of your uterus, although it’s rare that this happens. But if the IUD isn’t in your uterus, it can’t protect you and needs to be re-inserted by a doctor.
- The instance of IUDs coming loose from your uterus is increased for women:
- Younger than 20 years old
- Who have never been pregnant
- Have a history of severe cramping and a heavy flow
- Who have had their IUD fall out in the past
Sex After IUD Insertion
While the birth control efficiency of IUD is unmatched, the ultimate question is whether the device negatively affects sex. It is possible that your partner may feel the strings left on the device, these strings soften with time, and the feeling is not painful at all.
Some women report that their sex has improved because using an IUD removes any worry of an unwanted pregnancy. Of course, your experience may differ, but using a worry-free contraceptive — and one that can be reversed completely at any time — offers women the freedom they seek.
According to the National Institutes of Health, there is no scientific evidence suggesting that using any intrauterine device — whether the ParaGard, Mirrena or Skyla — leads to IUD weight gain. Numerous studies point to no unwanted weight gain at all.
If you’re weighing the copper IUD vs Mirena, consult your doctor. While the copper version lasts longer, the Skyla is smaller. All have their advantages and issues. All of them are equally effective birth control devices. All options and your specific case should be discussed with your gynecologist.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not a definitive medical advice. Please consult ob/gyn doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified gynecologist can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Do you have questions about IUD Birth Control or IUD insertion procedure? Would like to schedule an appointment with internationally recognized OBGYN doctor, Dr. Pedram Bral of Manhattan Women’s Health and Wellness, please contact our office for OBGYN consultation.consultation.
Dr. Pedram Bral, Gynecologist (Gynecologist NYC, Midtown)
New York, NY10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 533-4575